State Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman and S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas were re-elected Tuesday as legislators met to handle housekeeping issues before their session starts in January.
Nine GOP senators, including Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, opposed Florence Republican Leatherman in his re-election bid to lead the state Senate as president pro tempore.
Massey, R-Edgefield, said he has the same concerns as he did in 2014, arguing Leatherman already has enough power as chairman of the Senate’s budget-writing Finance Committee.
Massey also said he was concerned that Leatherman has said he would not become lieutenant governor. That post will become vacant if Gov. Nikki Haley is confirmed as U.S. ambassador and current Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster rises to governor.
Many of the GOP senators who voted against Leatherman had similar concerns.
Other Republicans voting against Leatherman were Sens. Sean Bennett of Dorchester; Chip Campsen of Charleston; Wes Climer of York; Tom Davis of Beaufort; Larry Grooms of Berkeley; Greg Hembree of Horry; Rex Rice of Pickens; and William Timmons of R-Greenville.
Grooms said he could not vote for Leatherman because rising to lieutenant governor is a part of the president pro tempore’s duties. “I believe it’s important that our leaders maintain an oath when they give one.”
Leatherman was re-elected 36-9.
State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, voted present, instead of voting for or against Leatherman.
Leatherman, who chairs the Senate’s budget-writing panel and as president pro tempore makes several significant appointments to state boards and commissions, said last week he does not want to become lieutenant governor, a figurehead position that holds little power.
“Each senator can vote their conscience,” said Leatherman of those who voted against him. As for the succession issue if McMaster becomes governor, Leatherman said: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Senators change their rules
The S.C. Senate changed some of its rules Tuesday in an effort to make it more difficult for a single senator to block legislation.
▪ Eliminated “minority reports” – a mechanism that senators use to block bills even though they have won approval in committee
▪ Moved up high-priority proposals – so-called “special order” bills – so they will be debated earlier in the legislative day.
▪ Made it easier to end filibusters, where senators opposed to a proposal take the podium and try to talk to death bills.
The Senate’s GOP majority pushed through the changes.
Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said he was concerned the rule changes were not done in a bipartisan way.
“The implication was that some people on our (Democratic) side of the aisle may have abused rules when, in fact, some of their (Republican) members are the ones that have done the same thing,” Setzler said.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, noted Republicans hold a majority of the 46 seats in the Senate.
“The reality is that there are 28 of us,” Massey said, adding, “We were elected to govern, and that’s what we intend to do.”